Caravansérail is a gorgeous bilingual bookshop, gallery and cultural space nestled in London’s Brick Lane, which offers a wonderful aray of adult and children’s titles in both French and English. Head there to find your newest read and grab a coffee surrounded by beautiful books, shelving and art. The shop front is spectacular (the blue is so striking and inviting) and their signage and branding is stunning.
Since opening in September 2017, co-owners Laura and Anne have hosted various events featuring authors, artists and musicians, cementing themselves as a hub within the community.
There’s something for everyone in the shop, from a carefully curated selection of cookery titles chosen by a local chef, or the wide range of translated fiction – a focus for Laura.
We caught up with Laura and Anne and asked them a few questions:
1. Congratulations on being chosen as our February Bookshop of the Month! We’ve talked a bit about you and the shop but how would you describe Caravansérail in five words?
A home for hybrid cultures.
2. Where is your favourite spot in the store?
The children’s nook! A place to shelter and escape from the buzz of the city. A perfect spot to read, whether you’re with kids or not.
3. Where do you like to read? Anne: in the wilderness! I used to live on the West coast of Canada and my favourite spot to read so far has been in Dorreen – an abandoned mining town in British Columbia that you can only access by train. A heaven lost between mountains, forest and river. Comfortably seated on the porch of a cabin, a steaming mug of coffee in one hand, a book in the other… and not too far away, a bowl of freshly picked blueberries. Sublime! Laura: nothing beats the combination of reading and fireplace for me, wherever it may be.
4. If you weren’t a bookseller what would you be? Anne: aside from Caravansérail, I am running an artist residency and an artists agency. Supporting and promoting the work of emerging artists is the cement of these three activities. Laura: I’d probably be doing something in publishing.
5. Excluding Caravansérail – what is your favourite bookshop? Anne: I love browsing the beautiful bookshops in the Quartier latin in Paris – a day well spent! Laura: without hesitation Daunt Books, Marylebone.
The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too. Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.
Rachael Allen is the author of 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children and two sled dogs. Visit her website here.
We fell in love with Spencer’s taxonomy charts in the book so we couldn’t resist asking Rachael to make a taxonomy about… Taxonomy! See her beautiful hand-written creation below:
From sibling relationships to neurodiverse characters to peach ice cream (x3), not only does A Taxonomy of Love span 6 years of the characters’ lives, it also incorporates some of the most important aspects of family, friendship, love and loss while subverting stereotypes in the process.
If you’re still not sure, you can dive into an extract here!
Let us know your thoughts at @ACBYA using #TaxonomyOfLove
We first featured paper artist Marc Hagan-Guirey back in September, when his new book, STAR WARS KIRIGAMI, hit shelves. He explained how he first encountered the world of kirigami and what led him to start creating scenes, buildings and vehicles from movies.
Now, with only one week until the latest instalment in the Star Wars saga hits cinema, he has told us a little more about the book and its part in the journey to The Last Jedi.
So how do you turn the ships into paper? What is the design process?
Needless to say I watch a lot of Star Wars. There’s a ton of resource material to work from which is great to make the kirigami design as accurate as possible. Sometimes there’s a bit of artistic license involved in order to make a ship fold properly. It’s about figuring out the basic shape of the ship first and then building upon that with details. I often use the LEGO versions of ships as resource because they’re essentially simpler versions of the real thing.
Which is your favourite ship in the book and why?
A prequel ship. The Jedi Star fighter from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith stands out for me. The prequel ships are slightly more stylised than those in the original trilogy. With lots of extra details and folds, they translate really well to paper.
Is there anything else interesting about the creation of the book that you can share with us?
Apart from a new ship from The Last Jedi, I wanted to offer something a little different with my book. I’m really interested in the production design process, from concept to final product. Each project comes with a written accompaniment detailing this. There are lots of interesting facts about the designers who worked on the films and pictures of the original concept drawings. It’s a celebration of the people behind the camera.
Tell us about the Star Wars exhibition you did.
It was called Cut Scene. It had 12 kirigami scenes from the original trilogy. my exhibitions are more like a collection of tiny movie installations. Each kirigami was housed in shadow box with a strong backlit colour reflective of the tone of the movie scene. I love how lighting plays a huge effect in cinema in creating that theatre. With the kirigami you get to experience a dual personality. You can appreciate the paper for the ‘craft aspect’ when viewed in a fully lit room (with ‘the big lights’ on) and then become immersed in the effect when they are lit with colour. It’s a bit like riding a ghost train in the dark and then again with the lights on. The experiences are very different – with the lights on you get to say ‘ah! That’s how they did it’.
The pieces were arranged chronologically and floated on the walls at eye level. I loved how every morning when I’d go in to the gallery to prepare it for opening, I’d have to clean nose smudges off the perspex from when people had be peering in. They’re probably the most complex work I’ve done to date. For example, my favourite, the Carbonite Freezing scene from The Empire Strikes Back took me around 2 years to master. Tweak after tweak, I was still working on it a few days before the show opened. I’m so glad I did that show. I was nervous because the Horrorgami exhibition had garnered so much press that anything other than that would have felt like a bit of a letdown. Cut Scene ended up dwarfing it in those terms. I was also not feeling great before that. I’d lost my mum to cancer, came to the end of a 7 year relationship and moved out of our home that I’d spent 2 years renovating, so much of the effect of those experiences had compounded. I literally decided one day – what makes me happy? What will help me get back to being me? As silly as it sounds the answer was kirigami and Star Wars.
What other books have you published?
This is my third book now. My first book ‘Horrorgami’ was a follow up to my first exhibition. Just a few months ago my second book ‘Frank Lloyd Wright Paper Models’ was published. It’s a collection of his 14 most celebrated buildings. I’ve just returned from California and visited (loitered) outside quite a few of them.
What’s next for you?
I’m keen to have another solo exhibition. I’ve had 3 year gaps between them so I’m ready… that’s how long it takes to build up the energy. They’re all consuming! If enough people like this book then hopefully I can do another!
Who or what are you inspired by?
I guess there’s no one particular source. Film, TV, interior designs. I have a tendency to be drawn more towards the relatively more ‘unsung’ heroes of film & TV such as set designers and concept artists. Outside of media I find inspiration in all sorts just from being observant. I guess if I can look at something, anything be it an object or photo and I can see it has a backstory – then my mind goes into overdrive romancing what it’s history is. I’ve got lots of pals who make stuff – crafters and artists. Anyone who makes something from nothing inspires me to keep creating.
If you could meet any actor from the Star Wars films who would you most like to meet and why?
It would have been Carrie Fisher. Her passing has a huge effect on me. It was very strange – psycho-analysing myself – her death had obviously re-surfaced the loss of my mum a few years ago. Another feisty woman who was gone too soon. On top of mourning the loss of a person you admire as a fan-base, we also are hurting due to the loss of the character too – knowing that they’ll never be able to fully complete her character’s arc. I always felt out of every character, Leia lost the most and gave the most. Luke was obsessed with his own journey whilst Leia looked at the bigger picture and sadly either her family was taken from her or they abandoned her (in the new films). She deserves a happy conclusion.
Are you excited to see the new film; The Last Jedi which is released cinemas this December?
I think tormented by the wait is the more accurate feeling!
STAR WARS KIRIGAMI is out now. Find out more here and watch Marc Hagan-Guirey in action here!
In STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI, celebrated paper artist and designer Marc Hagan-Guirey applies his genius to the Star Wars galaxy in this book of 15 unique kirigami (cut and-fold) ships featured in the saga’s films. Ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert, each beautifully detailed model features step-by-step instructions and a template printed on cardstock—all that’s needed are a utility knife, a cutting mat, and a ruler!
We asked Marc everything you need to know about the world of kirigami, getting started with the craft and his interest in Star Wars:
What is kirigami?
Kirigami is a bit like origami except that instead of just folding the paper, you cut it too. ‘Ori’ - means fold and ‘kiri’ means cut. Kirigami is traditionally used to create architectural replicas but it’s perfectly suitable for spaceships too! The cool thing about kirigami is that it’s just one sheet of paper – nothing is glued or added to it. It’s part of the joy that you can create something so interesting from a ubiquity of a piece of paper.
How did you get started creating kirigami?
I feel like it was a bit of a serendipitous moment that lead to me experimenting with the craft. I’m a big fan of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and back in 2012 my partner and I told a few white lies to get a private tour of one of his most elusive buildings – the Ennis House in LA. It was a condemned building and had been out of bounds to the public for over 20 years. We may have told them we had the $14 million needed to buy it and were very keen to come and see it. The experience had a huge impact on me – I’d go as far as saying it was spiritual. I wanted to mark the occasion by making some of sort of memento. As a kid I always loved to craft, my currency was egg cartons, toilet roll tubes and cereal boxes (it still pains me to see these things put in the recycling) but as an adult we all know too well that life gets in the way. I’m a designer director in digital but I still had that yearning to use my hands again. When I was researching what to make, I happened upon examples of kirigami. I felt paper was the perfect material to make a replica of the Ennis House due to its fragility. I quickly saw that kirigami wasn’t just limited to buildings and I started making scenes from movies.
Is your book suitable for complete beginners of kirigami?
There are a few ‘beginner’ projects in the book to get you started. I feel kirigami is easy to advance in and you’ll soon want more challenging projects. The most important thing is to be patient, take breaks and enjoy the process. I find it meditative to concentrate and not be distracted by the ‘coke machine glow’ of mobile devices.
Do you need any special tools to do kirigami?
You need a few inexpensive things – a cutting matt, a metal ruler, an x-acto knife with replaceable blades. Also a toothpick will be really useful to pop out some of the smaller folds.
Why did you decide to create Star Wars ships using kirigami?
Why not?! It was more of a necessity for me. I was already creating Star Wars kirigami back when I started experimenting with it. The idea to do a ship focused book was suggested by Mike Siglain, the Creative Director of Lucasfilm publishing – he’s a man with good ideas.
Have you always been a Star Wars fan?
I’ve always been a Star Wars fan and was essentially born into it. I’m an 80s kid so never saw it first time around at the cinema but I have an older brother who was the right age. I feel a bit guilty now for commandeering all of his original Kenner action figures – it must have been torture for him to see his baby brother destroy them but I did just buy him a full scale licensed replica of Vader’s helmet for his 40th birthday so I think we’re even now.
How did the book come to be?
A lot of knocking on doors and badgering people with emails. I started talking to Lucasfilm about the idea in 2014. During that time I was invited to the set of Episode VII and in a serendipitous moment I ended up chatting to JJ Abrams about my work. He was really excited by it and frog marched me across the set of ‘Star Killer’ base to meet Kathleen Kennedy. It was the only time I ever had a business card in my wallet – albeit a very dog-eared one. I had an unofficial exhibition of Star Wars kirigami scenes in 2015 – it had a lot of press and went viral. Lots of big media outlets such as the BFI, Wired, BBC World News, CNN were covering it. I guess it was inevitable that Disney took notice and that dog-eared business card eventually made its way to the business development department. I thought I was in trouble when they called! I’ve got to say the process of working with Disney, Lucasfilm, my publisher Hachette and my US publisher Chronicle has been wonderful.
Click here to find out more about STAR WARS KIRIGAMI, which publishes today!
Accomplished restaurateur Charles Compagnon’s third restaurant, with an ever-changing menu and nonstop service from breakfast through dinner. Don’t miss a bottle of his own beer, La Marise, and a cup of Café Compagnon which he will soon be roasting himself in Courances, outside of Paris.
Timothée Teyssier’s itinerant coffee bike may only hit the road for special events but he can now be found in his new fixed location in the 15th arrondissement, turning out excellent coffee, cakes, and fresh soups and salads.
Master crafter Livia Cetti is here to share the story of how she came to create her exquisite paper flowers.
Take is away Livia!
Growing up in the mountains of Santa Barbara, I’ve always been drawn to nature. As a child, I spent a lot of time playing with flowers and I created my first bouquet for the wedding of family friends at 7 years old. I began working for a floral shop in high school and went on to study fine arts at the San Francisco Institute of Art, always working for florists along the way. After graduating, I continued to hone my floral skills in various places and cities.
I knew I didn’t want to have a floral shop of my own – the market is already saturated with so many great florists. I became the senior style editor at Martha Stewart Weddings, and after a career in magazines I fell into freelance floral styling, which I really love because of how detail oriented it is. I made my first paper flower for a client and have been making paper flowers ever since.
I have always been interested in the movement towards handmade objects and had been looking for something I could make in my basement so that I could be close to my children and paper flowers were it.
I think about each flower for a long time before I make it. I’m never trying to copy the flower identically, but instead am trying to capture what I love most about the flower. Overtime the way I make different paper flowers develops and changes. I’m really excited to be able to share the way my paper peonies and roses have evolved in my second book. When I first began making peonies, it was difficult for me to figure out the right system for creating volume in the petals. Eventually I created a method of layering, fanning, and darting, which allowed me to create more realistic looking peonies. The same method has translated into the way that I make paper roses. I’ve loved the way the roses have continued to develop – there’s so much diversity and infinite possibilities, and in the end they always look like a rose.
Livia’s new book;The Exquisite Book of Paper Flower Transformations: Playing with Size, Shape, and Color to Create Spectacular Paper Arrangements is out now. Pick-up your copy in all good bookstores and start your own crafting story.
This series started on a school field trip. I taught seventh grade English for fifteen years, as part of a wonderful interdisciplinary team. Every winter, we used to take our students on a snowshoe field trip in the nearby Adirondack Mountains to look for animal tracks and other signs of life in the winter woods. On one of those field trips, we saw this.
It was just a little hole in the snow, with some tiny tracks leading up to it. The naturalist guiding us could have walked right on past. But instead, she stopped our group and said, “Oh! Everyone gather around and look at this!” When we were all circled around, she pointed down and said breathlessly, “Do you know what this means?” She paused. Then she whispered. “This means that we’ve had a visitor from…the subnivean zone!”
We stood in hushed silence for a moment until someone said, “What’s that?” And our guide explained that the subnivean zone is the fancy phrase used to describe the secret network of tunnels and tiny caves that exist under the winter snow. All the smallest forest animals knew about it, she told us, and they’d go down there to be a little warmer, a little safer from predators. And then we continued on down the path.
But the rest of the day, as I padded through the woods on my snowshoes, I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said. We’d been hiking for three or four miles…and all that time, there’d been a secret invisible world going on down there, under the snow? I asked a lot more questions. We talked more about the different animals who make their winter homes under the snow and the creatures who find their way through the woods above. And when I got back to the school bus, after I took attendance and made sure we hadn’t left any seventh graders out in the woods, I started writing. I didn’t even have a notebook with me that day – my first draft of Over and Under the Snow was written on the back of the attendance list for the field trip, in bumpy, school-bus handwriting. But it couldn’t wait, because I was fuelled by wonder that afternoon.
That’s what we do as writers of children’s books – we wonder. We stop everyone in their tracks. We slow down the day for a few minutes to say, “Look at this! Look more closely… Isn’t it amazing?” And that’s how I know when I have a story idea with the staying power to grow into a picture book. If I’m feeling that sense of awe at how things work, how things are, how amazing this part of our natural world is, then kids are likely to feel that way, too.
After Over and Under the Snow was published and doing well in the world, Chronicle asked illustrator Christopher Silas Neal and I if there might be another hidden world we’d like to explore. We emailed back and forth a bit, talking about the things that made us wonder. And we discovered that we both loved our vegetable gardens. Not just the weeding and tomato-eating part of gardening…but the wondering part. We’re both parents who love getting down on our bellies to look more closely at the critters that inhabit our gardens, and that was the wonder that sparked our second book together, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.
Our third book together, Over and Under the Pond, starts in that same place – with a familiar setting and a desire to slow down for a closer look. When I was getting ready to work on this book, I went back to the setting of Over and Under the Snow– the trails of the Paul Smiths Visitors Interpretive Center in the Adirondacks – but in a different season. The pond that had been covered with ice and snow in January felt like an entirely different place in July — a green, lush, buzzing ecosystem, just waiting to be explored. So I scheduled one of the centre’s guided canoe trips and spent a day paddling through the reeds. We marvelled at the tiny water striders skating on the pond’s surface, stared up at woodpecker scars on a tall tree by the water, and gasped as an American Bittern fluttered up from the grass.
There were families along on the trip, and I watched them, too. With their phones turned off and tucked away in waterproof bags, they paddled through the quiet together, whispering about the minnows and wondering what might live in that hollow log on shore. Slowing down in places like this feeds us in important ways. As a writer, I walked away from my canoe at the end of the day full of ideas, full of images and poetry and fresh air. I was ready to hit the library, finish my research, and get to work on Over and Under the Pond. But maybe even more important than that, spending time in the quiet of a cold snowy trail or a warm mountain pond reminds us to slow down. To look. Listen. And wonder. That’s my biggest hope for these books – that they’ll bring families together on the couch for a cozy story and then outdoors to wonder, too.
Over and Under the Pond is out now, order your copy today.
Sarah Lemon has momentarily put down her motorcycle to talk to us about the journey that brought her to write her debut novel: Done Dirt Cheap.
Take it away Sarah!
Writing at times feels like a superpower, unwieldy in my hands, not something I’m fully in control of, but a power that lets me raise my fingers and pull fragments of my world together into something new and beautiful. I can point to shards of glinting glass in the whole and talk about how that piece came to be. Done Dirt Cheap came from many places in my life and history. But for today, I want to tell you how it almost never happened.
There’s an unspoken rule in Art: Don’t talk about how much you suck, your fear, or how tenuous it feels. Unless it’s in a self-deprecating show of humility as someone is handing you the Pulitzer.
It’s part of success—the sheen of it, like a rainbow slick of oil on water.
But I’m not always great with rules and clear water is better than oil.
Done Dirt Cheap only happened because of a lesson I had learned a long time ago, on the back of a monster dirt-bike, on which I couldn’t touch the ground even when I pointed my toes.
I was fourteen, living in a part of the world that was only valuable for its minerals. My landscape had been stripped, clawed at, dug under and left behind as garbage. Our groundwater was tainted. Our basements full of radiation. Our streams clogged with weird foams and slick spools of dark muck. We had dug too deep and a darkness hung over everything.
In the strip mines, I found a place I could breathe. In those raped and forgotten places I could string together forty or more miles of new life. The landscape would rise and fight with me, and together we wouldn’t be forgotten girl and forgotten land, but two things who were still alive and able to grasp at our fate. It brutalised me to make me. I was in every way, an average, bookish, fourteen-year-old girl with a fear so strong it came out as teeth. But out in the mines, I was free of that skin. I could fly. I could see a line and fight my way to the end. I could fall, pitch over the handlebars, run my bike up a tree, flip end over end and still stand, pick up the bike, and begin again. Just writing this, fifteen years later, I can still feel the pump in my arms from wrestling the dirt-bike on the thin threads of trails that wound around deep, sentient holes of green water, cone mountains of slag and silt, and grated air shafts leading into the abyss.
“Treskow” was a route we took often—named after the tiny old mining town it began in. We rode through the woods, along an old railroad bed with no tracks, before dropping down a slippery rock covered mountain into an uninhabited valley. I would drag my back brake the whole way down, my teeth chattering from the rocks. But the real challenge was at the end of the mud-holed valley. We always stopped and craned our necks at the steep switchback of the mountain ahead. It made me sick to look at it, every time. By that point, there was no way to get home and no way to give up. I wanted to be there, but hadn’t known how terrifying it was going to be. Every time.
When I started Done Dirt Cheap, that’s where I was – at the bottom of a giant switchback, too far from home and looking up at the power lines humming between transformers while everyone else sped ahead of me.
In those tenuous moments where you are balancing on the edge of failure, the natural desire is to hold back. You think “Oh I’ll go slow and easy and pick my way up.” But in slippy slag and miles of steep switchbacks, you simply will run out of power. Each switchback has to be hit hard and powered through, or you’ll never make it to the top. There is no easing through the terrain. Manoeuvre swiftly or you’ll pitch over the edge. So, with this book, I was miles deep into publishing terrain. I had failed a lot. I had dragged my back brake down the mountain and even though, yes, I was out there, I was at the back of the crowd, wishing I was at home. Uncertain I could actually do this.
Looking ahead, I wanted nothing more than to go slow and safe. Something sure. But I had been here before. I knew what held me back was fear. This was the moment in riding where you have to pin back that throttle and ride with your jaw tight and your stomach in your throat.
So, I did.
Lord, I did.
And just like in riding, I prayed and held on and hoped for the best. With Done Dirt Cheap, I somehow popped over the top of that switchback with the valley below me and the sky above. I’m further than I ever expected to be.
Further, but with miles to go. I know the trail still—how it winds over the ridge before dropping down again and then taking me through another technical mountain crossing. I’m leaning over the gas tank, holding the throttle back. The wind is whipping my hair and I taste elation, panic, and dust in my mouth. All I can do is hope the trail keeps up with me, and I keep up with the trail.
Ride or die. Write or die.
P.S. Please buy my book.
Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Lemon is on sale 7th March 2017. Order your copy here.
Happy New Year friends! Here to launch our Bookstore of the Month feature for 2017 is a bookstore with a BITE, the incomparable children’s bookshop: The Alligator’s Mouth.
Describe The Alligator’s Mouth in three words.
Friendly, toothsome & biblioquirky.
Where is your favourite spot in the store?
We generally discourage customers from obstructing the steps in the centre of the shop, between picture books and books for older readers, but it can be a nice place to sit with a cup of tea when the shop goes quiet.
Give us a brief history of The Alligator’s Mouth
Margaret and Tony worked together at the Lion and Unicorn children’s bookshop, which had a great reputation in Richmond built up over more than 30 years. When it closed, they decided look for a new premises where they could carry on doing what they love doing. Mark joined the team as the third full time member of staff and the shop opened in March 2015. Our launch event featured Chris Riddell, Jacqueline Wilson, Axel Scheffler, Jim Smith and a host of other wonderful authors and illustrators who were there to get us off to a good start. We stock books from baby to young adult and host storytimes, a comics club, a 9-11 bookclub and frequent author events. In the nearly two years since opening we’ve had lots of lovely community support, getting involved with local schools, community centres and theatres. In November 2015 we were voted best Richmond shop in the Time Out Love London Awards. The name comes from a Lemony Snicket quote: ‘A book is like an alligator’s mouth — If you see one open you often end up disappearing inside.’
Do you have a store pet?
No, we don’t have a pet. An argument has just broken out over whether our ideal bookstore pet would be a griffin or a moomin…
(The A&CB team voted; we think a griffin would be impressive, but a moomin would be less likely to damage the books and readers…)
Do you have a favourite author? If yes, who is it?
We all love Chris Riddell’s work. There are favourite books here for all ages that he has either written or illustrated or both (‘Ottoline’, ‘When I Met Dudley’ and ‘Alienography’ to name but a few). We were very lucky to have him draw our alligator logo, and it had to be Chris to cut the ribbon on the shop at our launch event.
What is your favourite opening line from a book?
Margaret has picked “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”[sic], the unexpectedly sinister opening from E. B. White’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’.
What was the last book you read?
Tony: ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ by Alan Bradley Margaret: ‘The Road to Ever After’ by Moira Young Mark: ‘Podkin One Ear’ by Kieren Larwood
One book that we all continue to enjoy as we recommend it to parents, teachers and cheeky children is ‘Battle Bunny’ by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett & Matthew Myers. A little boy has received a twee book called Birthday Bunny, but with the power of a marker pen he has transformed it into the awesome, action-packed tale of Battle Bunny! We’ve had at least two teachers take it away and base lesson plans around it. For booksellers it’s satisfying to help others unlock the potential in an unusual book like this.
Share a #Shelfie with us!
Here’s a table filled with some of our favourite A&CB books, new and old.
You can find The Alligator’s Mouth at 2a Church Court, Richmond, TW9 1JL. If you find yourself in Richmond make sure you pop-in and say hello.
Jenny Linford, author of The Chef’s Library knows a thing or two about cookbooks; having interviewed more than 70 renowned chefs around the world about their favourite cookbooks. She is here today to share the cookbooks she cherishes.
FIVE FAVOURITE COOKBOOKS by Jenny Linford
Having blithely asked famous chefs around the world to choose their favourite cookbook, now that I’ve been asked to choose my own five favourites I realise what a tricky task that was! I am sitting at my desk in my study in London, surrounded by bookshelves filled with cookbooks. Some of them are battered old paperbacks I’ve had for years, others recently published, handsome tomes by chefs and writers whom I admire and find interesting. Researching The Chef’s Library saw me adding considerably to my own library, as I encountered wonderful cookbooks new to me and succumbed to the urge to own them for myself. In short, I’m spoilt for choice! For my favourites, I’ve chosen books that are old friends. This is one of the charms of cookbooks – that they become our companions.
Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book
I mentally applauded when three of the great chefs featured in The Chef’s Library chose cookbooks by Jane Grigson. While pleased, though, I was not surprised. Their choice of her work is a tribute to enduring appeal of Grigson’s depth of knowledge and her special voice that speaks out from the pages of her books. My much-thumbed, Penguin paperback edition of Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book remains one of my favourites. Alphabetically arranged by vegetable, each chapter offers her characteristic blend of down-to-earth, practical culinary advice, evocative anecdotes, cultural references and clearly written recipes. An enduring delight.
The Classic Italian Cookbook Marcella Hazan
A great food writer’s ability to promote a deeper understanding of a cuisine outside its native shores is a very special thing. Through her bestselling cookbooks, Marcella Hazan was a champion of Italian cuisine, noted as an authority on the subject. Unsurprisingly, works by her were chosen by a number of chefs for The Chef’s Library. Having lived in Tuscany as a teenager, I have a deep affection for Italian food. Hazan’s intelligent, lucid writing – laying down the rules as she saw them with absolute conviction – makes for a wonderful read. The clearly written recipes, offering readers salient, pithy insights, are a pleasure to cook from.
Roast Chicken and Other Stories
Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham
As all the best cookbooks do, this makes me hungry whenever I look through its pages. Chocolate Pithiviers, Poached Cod with Lentils and Salsa Verde, Anchovy and Onion Tarts . . . I first came across this book during my early years as a food writer and was charmed by its character and sense of personality. The chapters are focussed on Hopkinson’s favourite foods, clustering together diverse recipes around ingredients as various as Tripe, Endive and Cream. What struck me when I first read I was the care with which the recipes were written. Hopkinson evokes the dish in its Platonic ideal form – specifying the desired texture and flavour he wants – then carefully takes the reader through the steps and work needed to achieve it. It is a book that makes me want to cook.
The Carved Angel Cookbook
There is a lovely, quiet conviction to this cookbook by British chef Joyce Molyneux. The recipes are delightfully eclectic, reflecting Molyneux’s open-minded interest in ingredients and how to cook them. Her practical thriftiness is evident in the recipes for dishes such as Goose Giblet Stew or the Apple Quince Tart, where the fruit trimmings are cooked and pureed in order to make a flavourful glaze. I was lucky enough to eat at Molyneux’s Carved Angel restaurant – enjoying a wonderful fish soup – and it was a relaxed, genuinely hospitable, thoroughly delicious experience that lives on in my memory. While the restaurant has now gone, her cookbook, in which her generous-minded approach to food comes through, remains to be read and used.
The Kitchen Diaries Nigel Slater
The intimacy of the diary form gives a special charm to this chronicle of a year by food writer Nigel Slater. Food shopping expeditions, the weather that day, the changing seasons, his mood, ingredients, whether at their peak or in need to using up – all these offer inspiration for Slater when it comes to creating recipes. It is a book in which I always spot something new when I look through it – a wry observation, an evocation of a summer Saturday morning, brief insights into his thinking about food. The recipes, studded through the book, combine with the elegant yet vivid prose to make a cookbook with a special quality to it.
What are your favourite cookbooks? Let us know on twitter @AbramsChronicle using #TheChefsLibrary.